Thursday, April 19, 2007

Letter to that Girl - I am Sorry

In college, I was a Resident Assistant. That means I was in charge of an entire hall of freshmen girls. Freshmen have their own unique set of problems as they adapt to being away from home and the rules/regulations of their parents. I, myself, had rebelled my freshman year and used my experiences to help the girls on my hall. Or at least I tried.....

There was a period of time where the fire alarm would go off every single night in the middle of the night. No one could figure out who was pulling the alarm. Every night we would be awakened by that awful shrieking sound. I became accustomed to sleeping in clothes with shoes by the door. I would jump out of bed and start my rounds. Bang on each hall door, yell "Fire alarm, wake up" and enter the room. Do a quick check to make sure the girls were up and out and move on down the hall. Usually I'd just be finishing my check and exiting the building myself when we'd get the "all clear" signal.

One weekend night, the alarm went off as usual. Halfway down the hall, I opened the door, saw 2 shapes under the covers and realized there were naked body parts sticking out. My floor was an all-girls floor and all men were to be out of the rooms and off the halls by a specific time. This was in the middle of the night. The young man jumped out of bed, stark naked, grabbed clothes and ran past me. I stood there in shock. The female occupant was obviously quite intoxicated. By the time I got her covered in a blanket and awake enough to move, the all clear had been sounded. I told her to go back to bed and we'd talk in the morning.

The next morning I summoned her to my room to talk. She had no recollection of my coming into the room or of what had happened. I told her I'd have to write it up. I may have suggested she speak with the college counselor, but I'm not sure. I heard later that there was an open "date rape" case pending. I never heard anything else.

I don't remember this girl's name, but her face haunts me. This is to her.

Dear Girl:

I am sorry. I am sorry that I didn't realize the full implications of what I saw when I opened your door that night. I am sorry I assumed the worst - that you were just a drunk college girl whose boyfriend was breaking the rules. I am sorry I simply sent you back to sleep off the alcohol. I am sorry that I didn't realize the impact of your telling me that you had no memory of what had happened, when we talked the next morning. I am sorry that I didn't catch on when you asked me a lot of questions about the guy I found in your room - if I had gotten his ID, a good look at him, knew him. I should have realized then that you had no idea who this man was.

I am sorry I wrote you up for being intoxicated and for having a man in your room after hours. I am sorry you were disciplined for that.

I am sorry I didn't stand up for you and defend you when the rumors started. I am sorry I laughed in residence life meetings when people joked about my encounter with the "naked man" and how I "must be looking forward to future fire alarms in hopes of catching more glimpses of hot naked men."

I am sorry I didn't check back with you upon hearing the rumors that what happened was "date rape." I am sorry I wasn't there for you.

I know you left college after that year. I often wonder what happened to you - where you went - what you are doing. I don't remember your name. But I see your face - sitting up in bed with that look of confusion. Standing in the entrance of my dorm door crying because I was writing you up. I wish I could turn back time and do things over again. I often wonder if you are one of the many people who post on the rape/sexual abuse site I visit. I often wish I would find you, so that I could tell you all of this in person.

I hope and pray that you are doing well - that you are a survivor. I pray that you can forgive me. Please forgive me.


Lynn said...

You just didn't understand what had happened, Enola. I feel compassion for you around this. Maybe you can, too. It's easy for survivors to blame themselves for everything -- that's how we grew up -- the dirty person who was at fault, right? This is what was projected onto us from our abusers.

Let yourself have some of the compassion you feel for this girl. The compassion that I feel for you.

I was able to feel it for myself in a similar situation. You can read the post at my place if you want. It's from March 3, 2007. The title is Anatomy of a Meltdown. It is a graphic post, though, Enola. If you want to read it, make the timing right for you. It could be triggering.

Lynn said...

Sorry, Enola. I was wrong about the date of my post. The correct date is March 15, 2007.

Holly said...

Thank you for sharing this story, I am touched by your honesty in the post.
Bless you in this journey, one we all walk together in, we only have different paths.
Take care from Holly